For some reason, Zombie are still more popular than ever. Personally, I am long past the point of being sick of the zombie craze, but more and more zombie related movie, television shows, and obviously video games keep getting made. The upcoming Xbox Live Arcade game, Deadlight, is yet another zombie game to be released on Microsoft’s digital download service, though it is unique enough to stand out from the crowd.
The developers have stated that they were heavily inspired by games like Out of this World and Flashback, and that was very apparent once I started playing the game on the PAX East show floor. Like those games, Deadlight puts a lot of focus smooth animations and impressive visuals. However, unlike another game I played recently, War of the Worlds, that used the type of rotoscoped animations seen in Out of this World and Flashback, Deadlight opts for polygonal graphics instead of sprite based 2D.
The gameplay in Deadlight is different than most recent zombie games. Instead of trying to rack up astronomical body counts, your main goal is survival. The main gameplay involved platforming and puzzle solving, with any encounter with a zombie be an almost guaranteed death. The was mention of weapons on one of the loading screen tooltips, but in my time with the game I never encountered any weapons, so avoid and escape was my only means of dealing with zombies. This is where I ran into the major problem I had with the game. Like many platformers that use these sorts of elaborate animations, there was considerable input delay. Many, many times I found myself running straight off a ledge, despite pressing the jump button as I came upon it. Only when I pressed the jump well in advance of the ledge did I successfully jump before plummeting to my death. The puzzle solving seemed fine, but the controls were just too frustrating for a game that primarily focuses on platforming instead of combat.
Despite the control issues, the animations and backgrounds are beautiful. The game utilizes the color black and depth of field techniques very well, and the best word to describe the visuals is striking. The animations are also very smooth and fluid, though obviously this fluidity comes at the cost of precision in the controls. Like any game at PAX, it’s still a work in progress, so this issue could potentially be fixed at some point, but given the games listed as inspiration for this one, I feel this more of a design decision than an issue with the game, and that unfortunately makes it a game I don’t have a whole lot of interest in. While I may be turned off the controls, if you’re a fan of the games I mentioned above, and feel like the control issues wouldn’t be a problem for you, the other aspects of the game are of such high quality that I feel like many people will really enjoy it.